Tag Archives: Winter

The Last Sunlight

Sunrise/sunset: 10:35/12:34 Daylength: 1hr58min

I took the picture at the top of the page on Thursday 17th November without really thinking much about it, and its sister photograph was in last weeks blog, but it didn’t cross my mind at the time that it would probably be the last I saw of direct sunlight in 2022. Although technically the sun will rise above the horizon for almost two hours today, there aren’t many places where the horizon is visible, surrounded by mountains as we are. The upper slopes of the snow covered peaks have still been lit up for parts of the day until very recently. They looked so beautiful when I arrived home from work, all glowing with a pink tinged light, but even that is now going. Polar night is one of my favourite times because it can be so beautiful. When the weather is clear, the southern sky becomes golden and it reflects on the frosty ground with the magical warm glow you sometimes see on Christmas cards. To the north, the horizon turns a dusky pink colour that I had never seen before I moved up here. Here’s a photo that looks so surreal, even to me, that it’s hard to believe the colours haven’t been enhanced, but I haven’t made any adjustments at all.

Trees and a snow capped mountain under the pink glow of the northern horizon when the sun is just below the horizon in the south.

I took a few photos as I was driving around this week. There is still no snow, but the world is white anyway, with thick frost and ice. The ice crystals have formed slowly. I have shown photos before of hoar frost, but seems a little different as the crystals are large and flat.

We had a celebratory lunch this week at the abattoir. Ernestas and Vaidotas will be going back to Lithuania at the end of next week, and Øivind was missing waffles and the party spirit, so we decided to have a meal together, where we would bring something from our homeland. I brought an apple crumble, which went down well. Vaidotas brought honey and garlic roasted chicken wings, Oivind brought some Thai style chicken (his wife is from Thailand and is a wonderful cook). Konstantin brought a traditional Latvian bread soup, which tasted of cinnamon and raisins and Trude brought some amazing wraps, some with smoked trout and goats cheese, the others with smoked grouse that she had hunted and smoked herself. Everything was delicious and it was really very cosy.

Thai chicken and wraps

If you look in the back of the photo above, there is a blue box containing Roses chocolates, which was Ernestas’ contribution. That was another treat for me. When I was young, we didn’t get a lot of chocolate at home, but an exception was made at Christmas, when there was always a large tin of Roses chocolates. Though the packaging has changed, many of the sweets were still the same, so although it wasn’t very Lithuanian (though for all I know, maybe they’re made there) I really enjoyed the nostalgic taste of Christmas past.

And with the mention of Christmas, I can’t ignore the fact that tomorrow will be the first Sunday in advent. I’ve already bought candles for my advent crown and the first candle will be lit tomorrow. Last year, I looked around on the internet for some kind of advent calendar app as I love advent and hoped for something that wasn’t chocolate based, as most advent calendars are nowadays. I didn’t manage to find anything particularly special, and it crossed my mind that perhaps I could make one myself. So from Thursday 1st December until Christmas, I will post an image each day. I can’t promise they’ll all be from this year. I may include some of my particular favourites from the past two winters, but hopefully I will be able to capture my Arctic Advent for you.

Roses chocolates – the packaging has changed since I was a child, but many of the fillings are the same

End of Season and Emergency Plumbers

Sunrise/sunset: 08:28/14:33 Daylength: 6hr04min

Yesterday was officially the last day of the season at the abattoir. It’s rather sad to think that the vast majority of the lambs that were born in the spring time are now processed and ready to be eaten, but that is the end result for almost all animals that are bred for food. My job, as ever, is to ensure that the animal welfare during that process is as high as it can possibly be, and also to check that the quality and cleanliness of the meat produced is up to scratch.

Though the season officially ended yesterday, lots of the season workers flew home (including twelve who had decided to desert early in order to get cheaper flights). A quick change of plan meant that instead of being on the sheep production line, as I had expected, I was suddenly free to make a start on all the work that’s been building up while I’ve been busy. Every year, the season overshadows all the other work we do and I guess it’s the busiest time of the year.

It felt good to be making a start on the backlog. Hilde has given me some new tasks at the abattoir as I will eventually be moving there on a permanent basis. As with any other business, there’s a lot of paperwork to do behind the scenes and with my predecessor having left a year ago, and the other permanent vet (Ann) on sick leave, I am in the sink or swim phase of a new job, where things are thrown at me and I have to work out how they are done before a (fortunately mostly reasonable) deadline. That sort of thing can be somewhat stressful, but I can remember, all those years ago as a brand new vet, being thrown into a consulting room with clients when my knowledge of how to do the job was sadly lacking, and that was way worse! Ultimately, I will swim. I always do. Life experience is a wonderful thing.

John’s Triar fence isn’t quite finished. He and I had measured before we began and had estimated we needed 100m of lamb netting, but it seems we were out by a few metres and will need to buy some more lamb netting. I was amazed by John’s expertise though. One of the beautiful things about having adult children is that they learn to do things you never expected them to. Before I married, I was always impressed with the young farmers I had to work with, who were so wonderfully practical and seemed to be able to turn their hands to anything. I can do lots of things, if taught to do them, but often fear messing up (though obviously, reading my own words higher up the page, that doesn’t apply to things that are thrown at me at work!). John reminds me of those young farmers. He has no fear of taking things apart and putting them back together, or building a fence and sorting out any problems that come up. I am immensely proud of the young man he’s turned into.

Here he is wielding a mallet to put the posts in place, banging them down with a post knocker, sawing a notch for the stay (posts that go in at an angle to stabilise the corner posts) hammering in a stay and finally, tightening up the lamb netting (wider holes at the top, smaller gaps lower down). As you can see, he did it all with snow on the ground. That snow is mostly gone again for now, but winter is definitely here.

After we had been working on the fence, John went inside to have a warm shower, while I did some washing up. The washing machine was also on. While I was standing at the sink, I got something of a shock when I found my feet were suddenly wet. We have a dishwasher, but it isn’t plumbed in yet (it needs a new pipe and, you guessed it, it’s on John’s list of things to tackle). This means that there is an uncovered hole in one of the pipes under the sink. Up until now, the water has drained away normally despite this, but now it wasn’t. John also came out of the shower to say there was water all over the bathroom floor. It’s a wet room, so that wasn’t a disaster, but it certainly wasn’t normal either.

Norwegian insurance companies are great. In the UK, most seem to spend their time trying to get out of paying out, but here in Norway, I phoned mine (Gjensidige) immediately, and within a couple of hours there was a plumbing expert, who ran a self propelling hose up the pipes from the septic tank, then put in a camera to see what was wrong. It seems a previous occupier has thrown a load of solid fat down the drains, which has attached to the pipes and not only blocked them, but has done significant damage. For now they are unblocked, but will need to be replaced.

I’m not sure yet whether this is going to involve digging up huge sections of the garden (there might be a quicker fix under the house as the pipe from the toilet is large and still intact) but either way it’s a big job. It may be that it will have to wait for next year, as when the snow comes and the ground freezes, it will become impossible to dig, or indeed to access the “creep cellar” under the house, which is accessed from outside and will shortly be under a metre of snow. Still, for now it’s all working okay and it will be sorted out eventually. I’m just glad we found it early. The person that sold me the house also bought insurance for unexpected things happening after she’d moved out, so I will, if at all possible, shift the claim from my own insurance onto hers, but either way, I feel confident that this will all be sorted out.

Anyway, I have to go. My car has a major fault which is going to take three days to fix (something called the wire harness has a fault) and there’s nobody nearer than Tromsø with the expertise to fix it. I’ll take it today and collect it next weekend. One thing I can certainly say is that life here is rarely boring!

Don’t Try This at Home

Sunrise/sunset: 07:28/17:40 Daylength: 10hr11min

A lot has happened this week. I’m starting to feel that life couldn’t be much more up and down if I was strapped into a roller coaster beside a demented grizzly bear.

Last weekend was mostly good:

John and I drove down to Narvik on Sunday to buy a snøfres or snow blower. I can see, when I look at the estate agent pictures of my house from last winter, that it obviously gets a lot of snow, so working out how to clear it is important. I like snow, which is just as well, and at least I now have a garage – no more getting up at 4a.m to clear one car, then a second ten minutes later. But I will still have to clear the driveway, which is longer than the old one. John found the snow blower on Finn – a Norwegian website that has everything from second hand stuffed otters to holiday booking and jobs.

The bloke selling it laughed at us when we arrived with my car and no trailer. I seem to have been beset by arsehole men of late (not sure why – I wouldn’t have said it was typical here) but happily John had brought his tool kit. He very quickly removed the wheels and the funnel that directs the snow, and we soon had it in the boot to drive home. Here’s John checking it out when we got back.

Sturdy, orange snow blower

In addition to the snow blower, I have also invested in a Roborock Vacuum cleaner. This must surely be the best invention ever for those of us who don’t like housework. In order for it to work, the floor must be clear, so that was a good start and gave us the final push to put away the last few things that were still lying around after moving. The first time I set it going, I discovered that you can watch its progress on the Roborock app. This was oddly fascinating and I sat and watched the lines building up as it cleaned the floor in sections. I actually watched this for about 40 minutes as it wove in and out of the hall and kitchen! A couple of days later, I showed John and he was equally mesmerised. And all that comes with the added benefit that the floor is unprecedentedly clean.

The highlight of the weekend was a visit to Trude’s to see the puppies. We had a puppy cuddling session and then coffee and I even came home with some plants for the house.

Puppys at the milk bar

Monday wasn’t a bad day until the evening. I was checking my online bank when I noticed there was very little left in my current account. This does sometimes happen, but I wasn’t expecting it, right at the start of the month. When I checked the outgoings I realised, to my horror, that an automatic rent payment had been paid out to my ex-landlord. I went and checked, with shaking hands, and realised that the monthly payment, which I had stopped, had restarted.

The bank helpline was still open, so I called them. They told me it was my responsibility, that the stop button was only for a month, and that it was now on me to try to get the money back. I was reeling. It was a lot of money as I was paying 14,500kr per month rent (well over a thousand pound or US dollars).

John was frantically searching online – a difficult task as all the information was in Norwegian – and he told me I had to contact the person I had sent the money to, to establish that it had been sent in error and that I wanted it back. My first instinct was to message the wife of Mr Abusive, so I did so, but then thought afterwards that I should tell him as well, given it was his bank account. I’m glad I contacted her as well as him as, though neither of them responded, I can see from her messenger (and thus can prove) that she read it, which might turn out to be quite important.

My bank have not been particularly helpful. I will be making a complaint, as if I click on a button that says “Stop transfer” and a button pops up that says “Start transfer” I assume that the process is stopped until I start it again. When I looked again, I can see there was also an option to delete. It was a while ago, so I’m not sure why I didn’t take that option, but with a word like “transfer” which can refer to an individual transaction, or the monthly transfer of funds, that the bank should have made it absolutely clear that the stop was only temporary and would restart the next month.

Of course, Mr Abusive has not sent the money back. I presume that he thinks he will keep it as a kind of “deposit” against the 40,000kr he thinks I will have to pay him. Taking a deposit in your own bank account is illegal in Norway though, so I hope that the rent disputes tribunal will take a very dim view.

In the meantime, I have contacted his bank – apparently they are obliged to take “reasonable steps” towards getting my money back. My own bank told me I should contact the police, if he doesn’t pay it back. I think they might be referring to a particular branch of the Norwegian police force, who work in debt collection, rather than him being arrested, but that is all still to come.

In the first instance, I have been able to obtain legal assistance from Jusshjelpa i Nord Norge, a group run by the university in Tromsø, where law students assist people with legal issues. I have also informed the rent disputes tribunal and they have extended my response deadline so that I can find out whether he pays me back or not. If he doesn’t, I will be adding it to that case, which will be legally binding, if they decide in my favour. Given Mr Abusive’s ongoing behaviour, I think it’s becoming increasingly clear who isn’t being honest and reasonable here. Legally, he should send the money back and wait for the tribunal result, but it’s looking unlikely that he will do so.

Anyway, having picked myself up from that debacle, I was feeling tired, but pretty happy towards the end of the week. The house and my life in general are still giving me a good feeling of happiness and stability. So I was looking forward to the weekend yesterday, when I was on the sheep line at work. We use sterilisers for our knives, which are filled with water that is usually simmering. My knife fell into the water. I was wearing a latex glove with a cotton glove underneath, so I put my hand in to retrieve the knife, as I had often done before. Unfortunately, this time there was a hole in the glove. It took a moment for the pain to hit, but I had to rush off the line, ripping the gloves off and leaving Vaidotas alone.

It was one of those horrible moments. I was wearing loads of protective clothing and it was becoming increasingly clear that I couldn’t continue without running my finger under cold water, so I had to throw off all the gear as quickly as possible and rush to the Mattilsynet room, where fortunately Ernestas was sitting at the table. I asked him to go in for me, and went to run my finger under the tap. Having looked at the NHS website last night, I can see that the first aid advice for burns has changed from ten minutes under cool water to twenty, but having stopped after ten minutes, I was still in so much pain that I had to ask Trude to take me to the doctors’. Another change of clothes was required. I guess, in an out and out emergency, they’d take you in your white “clean area” clothes, but a scalded finger didn’t really qualify. I was in enough pain that I had been sitting with my finger under another tap at the surgery for fifteen minutes, before I noticed I hadn’t actually done my trousers up.

So now I have a bandaged middle finger on my right hand. Second degree burns, apparently. There’s a blister encompassing a good section of my finger tip and another at the top of the nail. The pain seems to be under control for now, but typing is definitely not as easy as it usually is. Fortunately, I will be inspecting live animals on Monday, which will only require me to wield a pen, rather than a knife, so that should hopefully be okay.

Sunset taken on a walk with Triar near the house

And now I need to go shopping, partly for food, and hopefully also to buy an outfit for Anna’s graduation, assuming I feel up to it. She and I are also planning a trip to Stonehenge when I go over. We share a love of the ancient, so that definitely qualifies.

And I’ll leave you with a photo of a snow capped mountain. It’s rather distant and therefore difficult to photograph, but beautiful nonetheless. Have a good week all!

Snow capped mountain scene, taken from my veranda

Parties and Preparation

Sunrise/sunset: 08:01/ 17:03. Daylength: 9hr02min

I had a pleasant day yesterday, and indeed an enjoyable week altogether. Friday is often the best day of the week anyway, but I had a good start to mine when Vaidotas told me he thought he, Konstantin and I make a great team. Yesterday was my only day at the abattoir this week. I’ve been there a good deal less this year than last, so it was very pleasant to hear I’m appreciated, even though I’m slightly bemused as to which part of my performance he thinks is most useful.

As a quick update, on any day in the season, there is a team of three on the sheep line. We work in a rota of one hour on, thirty minutes off, so when the line is running, there are two of us working at any time. Vaidotas and Konstantin are there daily, and different people make up the number on different days. You’d think it was all about teamwork. Beyond our smaller team, we’re also part of a much bigger team on the line, with perhaps a hundred people, each doing one or two small tasks. However, despite that teamwork, there’s also a feeling of being on your own. The line is noisy, so headphones (attached to a helmet) are the order of the day. There’s not much chance for chat and the work doesn’t require much thought, so there are times when I retreat into my own head, sometimes quite a distance.

Indeed yesterday, with Vaidotas’ happy praise in my head, I started thinking about what I would tell you about it. As I was wondering what he liked about my performance, it crossed my mind that I spend at least some of my time daydreaming, which can’t be all that helpful. I glanced out of the window for a moment as I considered how I would describe that, and thought perhaps I could say I must spend some time staring into the middle distance like some badly written heroine of romance. I was weaving through a mental maze about whether I could compare myself to Jane Eyre, or Eliza Bennet (not that either of those are badly written and neither are particularly prone to the middle distance gaze) when it struck me that even the worst romance writer would not set her (or his) story in an abattoir.

Modern romance novels often take a particular form, so I began to wander through a few possible titles, Canteen Cakes in the Little Slaughter Kitchen maybe or Snowflakes in Nortura Skies, I found myself grinning, and indeed I did smile at everyone around me because I was feeling rather cheery. So perhaps the reason Vaidotas enjoys working with me is because I stand around all day giggling to myself at the silly thoughts in my head. After all, it is unlikely to be my other habit that he finds praiseworthy, as my other habit is peering quizzically at something unusual on a side of lamb that might be nasty (or maybe not) and pointing it out to him to see what he thinks, at which point he invariably reaches for his knife and cuts it off, while I watch and think that next time, I must remember to be decisive and do that myself. Anyway, regardless of the reasons why, I was very pleased.

The rest of the week has been enjoyable too. I didn’t have too much work pending and I had quite a lot of flexitime, so I’ve been working shorter days than usual. Though we don’t have to be back in the office, and can still work from home, it’s no longer the rule that we ought to do so. For most of the year I’ve been here, social events have largely been on hold. However, with the restrictions lifting, and a few people sitting around the table for coffee first thing in the morning, talk somehow turned to the idea of a party. So on November 12th, everyone is going to get together in the office after work. It might seem a little odd, just how exciting that seems to me, but as I said, I’ve mostly been here during lockdown and my contact with other adult human beings has been very minimal. I need to get out perhaps, and expand my network outside of work colleagues, but for now, getting to know them better sounds great.

There was, of course, discussion about food. I believe there may be some budget for socialising, but like everything in the pubic sector, it’s limited. So I piped up and said I would be happy to bring some traditional UK/Scottish food. Though it’s difficult to get some ingredients, I like making sausage rolls, for example, as you can’t buy them here. And pies and savoury pastries aren’t really a thing in the shops. There is frozen puff pastry, but I’ve no idea what they do with it as savoury pies really don’t seem to be a thing. So if I have time, I might make chicken and mushroom pasties. The recipe is here, and rather unexpectedly, that page is the most popular on my website, so I’m guessing it must be relatively reliable! I will probably also bake some shortbread biscuits. Funny that things that are basic in the UK are really quite exotic here, but I’m hoping other people will bring dishes local to them as well. I love trying different things.

I arrived at the office on Thursday morning to a very beautiful dawn. I had already taken a photo of Senja from the garden before I set out. Looking away from the sun, the blue, polar, pre-dawn light is already kicking in and it’s wonderfully clear. The photo at the top of the page shows a snow cloud over Senja from a few days earlier.

Snow covered mountains on Senja

But as I arrived at the office, the sun was just below the horizon. It was painting the clouds the most wonderful colours and then a group of crows seemed to be enjoying it too, as they performed acrobatics over the fjord. It was too intense to ignore, so I spent a few minutes outside taking photographs before I went in.

And lastly, my preparations for winter are well underway. Until recently, it was quite warm, but the temperatures have suddenly dropped, especially at night. It’s forecast to reach minus ten overnight on Wednesday. So I have thrown the extending shovel back in the car and I’ve bought an extra long implement for clearing snow off the roof of the car, which I didn’t get round to last year. The guinea pigs, after a few nights with a blanket over their outdoor cage, have now moved inside into their winter quarters. They seem very cheery about it all, and indeed have quickly remembered that the sound of the fridge opening sometimes leads to salad if you squeak loudly enough!

Susie and Brownie in their indoor quarters.

The only thing I have failed to do in time, is to change the winter wheels onto the car. They are stored in a local “Tyre hotel” as I don’t have a lot of storage space. When I went in on Monday, they told me I’d missed my slot. It transpired they had sent me an appointment for the change back in September, but as they had the wrong phone number, someone else must have received a random message that their wheel change was due. Anyway, I have a time slot on Monday, and in the meantime, I will just have to drive very carefully, if and when I go out.

Anyway, I will leave you with a photo of Triar, who seems to be enjoying the cosiness created by new blankets on the sofas, along with the return of the warmth from the heated floor. Thanks for reading and have a good week.

Upside-down Triar

Dreaming of a White … Halloween!

Sunrise/sunset: 08:07/ 14:54. Daylength: 6hr 47min

The days are getting very short now and in only one month, the sun will go down for the last time on 2020. It won’t come over the horizon again until almost the middle of January.

Monday started well with another elk sighting. This time, since the snow hadn’t yet arrived, I pulled in quickly and managed to take a photograph, though it’s not the clearest. Difficult to capture a moving target in the pre-dawn twilight.

In other news, the snow arrived properly on Thursday. For the past two days, I’ve had to factor in scraping it from the car before I set off in the morning, though so far I haven’t had to clear the driveway. . Even in those two days, I feel I’ve learned a lot. For example, it’s clear that you should never rent or buy a house in the Arctic Circle that doesn’t have a garage. Equally, if you apply for a job where you are expected to use cars daily from a car pool… make sure you don’t choose a workplace without some kind of covered parking. I expect I will get very efficient shortly, doing it at least twice a day. More if it snows while I’m at work!

Today has been rather lovely. Andrew and I set out this afternoon to go to Silsand on Senja Island. We go there some evenings and there’s a pleasant enough walk up to a lake, but to our surprise, the car park, which is usually empty, was full. Rather ominously, there was a sign up which said “Testing Senter”.

Recalling that I had read somewhere that a specialised centre for COVID was being set up in Silsand, we beat a hasty retreat, then drove north for a short way. A sign directed us towards “Woodland Lodge” and we drove down a little track, which to my delight led to a tiny pavilion and a stretch of woodland.

Andrew found some animal tracks. At first I assumed they were a dog’s, but if they were, it had gone for a walk alone. So we began to follow them. When we got down to the waterline, we found the lovely little jetty pictured at the top of the page. And though we never found the Halloween wolf… or whatever it was, all three of us very much enjoyed roaming around in the snow.